Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dance your PhD

The results of the recent Dance your PhD are in. The point is to, well, dance your PhD. My favorite was A Molecular Dance in the Blood, Observed, for many reasons. I liked the dance, it was a good interpretation, and I figured out much of what was going on from the dance itself. The video notes clued me in on a few things, like that it was Old Man Winter freezing the system.

I also liked the music a lot. It's from Laurie Anderson's Born, Never Asked. That's a video someone made, choosing the song as an accompaniment. Anderson's song O, Superman made it to #2 on the UK charts in 1981, which if you watch it seems very unlikely.

Another performance I liked from this year's Dance your PhD was Miriam Sach's Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography. The translation isn't as direct as the first, but I liked the dancing and the music. She seems like she's expressing an inwardness in a way I enjoy. Compare that to Clarissa Anderson's Environmental Controls of Phytoplankton Community Structure in the Santa Barbara Channel, CA: Application to the Dynamics and Detection of Harmful Diatom Blooms. She's a great dancer, and expressive and energetic but the feeling I get is more of a "look how good I am."

Is the former of these two styles modern dance and the latter jazz dance? I'm feeling clueless about the wider world of dance now.

Using dance to express science is not new. There's the well-known Protein synthesis: an epic on the cellular level. Skip to 3:10 unless you want to be really bored by the intro science part. Set your sensors for summer-of-love style trippiness! I, however, didn't learn about that movie until a couple of years ago.

The first dance interpretation of a science principle I saw was in the 1980s on a series called "Alive from Off Center." IMDB calls it "An avant-garde omnibus that features works by off-the-wall artists in many different disciplines." I enjoyed watching it as a teen-ager, which might say something about me. I think I saw on that show a choreography of dancers as electrons in a classic superconductor, with paired dancers being Cooper pairs. Or was that Nova? In any case, I liked that show and looking at the remarks now, Laurie Anderson hosted the show and made the short movie What You Mean We?.

Which means this afternoon I've been digging up more about her and her works, of which this blog is only a small part.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Jag ordnade en bildjakt idag. Ordet finns inte på svenska. På engelska är det en "photo scavenger hunt". Vi traffades kl 14 och bildade lag. Var lag fick listan innehåller saker att fotografera och jakten började. Två timmar senare återsamlade vi. Laget med den flesta bilder vann. Enkelt, eller hur? För att bli en lite svårare, behövde var lag att ta med en maskot, som ska i var bild. Det fanns tre lag, och maskoterna var en spader dam, en björn, och ett hus.

I arranged a photo scavenger hunt today. There's no direct translation for that in Swedish so use the term "bildjakt" ("photo hunt"). We med at 2pm and formed teams. Each team got the list containing things to photograph and the hunt began. Two hours later we got back together. The team with the most pictures won. Simple, yes? To make it a bit harder, each team needed to carry a mascot that needed to be in every picture. There were three teams and the mascots were the queen of spades, a bear, and a house.

Här står listan och några bilder.

Here's the list and some of the pictures.

Buddha (äkta eller staty) - Buddha (real or statue)
symbolen för planeten Mars -- the symbol for the planet Mars
en kanon kanon (storre än 1,5 meter) -- a good-sized cannon (bigger than 5 feet)
en trähjul -- a wooden wheel
en i laget på en gunga -- someone in the team on a swing
en helikopter -- a helicopter
en segelbåt -- a sailboat
nån som spelar gitar eller trum -- someone playing a guitar or drum
en stor klocka vid kl 14.45 -- a big clock at 2:45pm
buss 18 -- bus number 18
Fibonaccital (minst 10 tal i sekvensen) -- the Fibonacci sequence (at least 10 numbers)
tre vinkande tjejer (inte från laget) -- three waving women (not from the team)
den amerikanska flaggan -- the American flag
en flaska Glenfarclas whiskey (min favorit) -- a bottle of Glenfarclas whiskey (my favorite)
en skylt med orden "Byggd år _____" och året innan 1908 -- a sign with the words "Built in ____" and the year before 1908
en katt (mjau!) -- a cat (meow!)
en väggbonad -- a tapestry
en traditionell norsk kniv så väll som ägaren -- a traditional Norwegian knife as well as the owner
en massa sorts ost -- a large cheese selection
en polishäst -- a police horse
eld -- fire
hallon -- rasberries
en kram från en främling -- a hug from a stranger
en stenlejon -- a stone lion
köttättande växter -- carnivorous plants
en Paddanbåt -- one of the Paddan tourist boats
Centralstationen -- the main train station
grafit -- graphite
kanelbullar -- cinnamon rolls
något på kinesiska -- something in Chinese

Här står några av bilderna från två lag. (Jag kunde inte koppla kameran från den tredje till datorn.)

Here's some of the pictures from two of the teams. (I couldn't connect the camera from the third team to my computer.)

Det fanns en massa Buddhar i Göteborg. There's a huge number of Buddhas in Gothenburg.

Från en staty av solsystemet.

From a statue of the solar system.

En kanon kanon!

A huge cannon!

Jonatan på en gunga.

Jonatan on a swing.

Buss 18. Jag gillar den här bilden.

Bus 18. I really like this picture.

Fibonnaci sekvensen på en mur. Konst är ju konstigt.

The Fibonacci sequence on a wall. Art is indeed strange.

Kinesiska Generalkonsulatet. (Något på kinesiska.)

The Chinese Consulate-General. (Something in Chinese.)

Tre vikande tjejer, på en möhippa.

Three waving women, on a bachelorette party. In Sweden they usually go out dressed in funny clothes and do strange things, so it was perfect for this event.

En väggbonad i Domkyrken

A tapestry in the cathedral.

Eld! Om jag hade bara fyrverkeri...

Fire! Now if I only had some fireworks ..

En grafitpenne. Bra gjort med bilden!

A graphite pencil. Nicely done picture!

En kram från en i en annan möhippa.

A hug from someone in another bachelorette party.

Kanelbullar från min favorit bakverkförsäljare, i Saluhallen

Cinnamon rolls from the woman at my favorite bake shop in Saluhallen.

Bron byggde år 1901.

The bridge was build in the year 1901.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I've noticed something at the gym. I usually have the shortest shorts of anyone there. I wear swim trunks, and they aren't that short. The bottoms are an inch or two above the knee. When I was in elementary school we had a dress code. Not a dress uniform, mind you, just a dress code. One was that shorts could be no shorter than about an inch from the knee. I remember measuring the gap one morning to check if it was decent. It was - if I stood up.

That was in the 1970s, and shorts then could be really short. My swim trunks now would fall within the dress code, assuming scaling since my legs are a bit longer now. But I look around and nearly everyone is wearing shorts that go below the knee. I'm always wearing some sort of loose T-shirt, usually from some conference I've been to. I see again that nearly everyone else wears some sort of close-fitting gym clothes. Which probably do a better job of wicking.

It's the middle of summer here in Sweden. Many people are on vacation. The weather is warm, for Sweden. Nights get down to about 12C/54F which means I can be sitting on the small balcony at night enjoying the cool air, so long as I have a sweater on. A few times it's been warming enough to not need the sweater. It's after the solstice and the days are getting noticeably shorter. Around midsummer even in the darkest of night I could see lightness in the northern sky. Now there's a few hours of real dark. Winter's coming. But not for a while. :)

Monday, June 02, 2008


I've been looking for a bike. There's some I like which are really expensive. About $1,000. I want something cheap that I don't mind getting stolen. Nearly every place sells only new. I've been asking friends for recommendations, and Claire recommended "Biltema". "Bil" means "car" and I think it started out as a car store, then expanded into boats and hardware and outdoorsy things.

I didn't like the bikes. The prices were right. I'm looking for something with more than 3 gears. I would like only hand brakes, like my old bike had, but most city bikes here are foot breaks, with perhaps also one hand brake. But I've also decided that I want the fuzzy warm feeling of having someone knowledgeable helping me out, and this was a big box store. Yep, Sweden has big box stores. I was about to link to an aerial map but most of the way through figured out that, really, it's an aerial photo of a bunch of big box stores surrounded Christo-like by parking lots.

Tomorrow then (Sunday, but I wrote this on Saturday and didn't post it until Monday) will be another day of walking, walking, walking. Not that I mind overly much, but it is starting to get monotonous. Perhaps that's another reason I should relocate in this town. On the plus side, I've discovered a new way to get to the Linnéplatsen area, so I don't need to move just yet.

Many stores are open on Saturdays but with short hours. I went to one recommended store which might sell used bikes and found it closed at 1pm. I got there at about 2pm. I browsed a bit at Myrorna ("the ants" - it's run by Sweden's Salvation Army. In Swedish you say "busy as an ant", which might explain the expression, or perhaps the old story about the cricket not saying up for the winter while the ants were working. I don't know if that's made it here.). Just looking at what clothes I might want to buy. I really need a new belt and pants.

Then to Biltema, which closed at 4pm, so I had 30 minutes to look around. After decided against the bikes I just looked at what I could buy, and got tool envy. All my tools are in my sister's garage, or given to Geoff. One and the same - I think it's cheaper to buy new tools here than to get them here from the US. Though I'm allowed a one-shot no import tax when importing your living goods shipment, so perhaps that's something to think about.

I grew up a Sears hardware family. My grandfather had Craftsman tools, and my Dad, and I bought them too. Sears died away as the place to go, and I started going elsewhere for tools. I really like this place in Illinois called Black's hardware. I was looking for a router bit and they had a really nice selection. In Santa Fe the best place was Big Jo on Siler. The sort of place where you get that nice, warm, fuzzy help from someone knowledgeable.

Black's, as well Napa auto parts, has a special sort of feel. In some sense they are intimidating. There's a big table, with all the parts and tools and whatnot behind it on the shelves and you have to say "I want a 2 3/4 inch whatzit" as if you know what you're talking about. Whereas sometimes I am just browsing to think how cool it would be if I had a job where I could use all these beautiful tools. Who actually buys the 3" i.d. nuts you can find at these stores?

At the checkout line at Biltema was a set off poor quality box wrenches. They didn't have a good feel to them like Craftsman tools did. What set them off is they were anodized. Each size with its own color. I thought that was cool, but it doesn't fit well with my mental image of what a Serious Mechanic would use. Again, they didn't feel right, so I wouldn't have bought them.

While there are nice aspects to not having much stuff, I do miss the idea that if something breaks, I've got the right tools, or at least close enough, to fix it. Now I don't even have a screwdriver .. no, wait, I do have a small one .. now I don't even have a wrench. I could get one, but I've got no need for it, and I know I'll be moving again within a few months.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Some 7 years ago I weighed 225 lbs (that's 102kg to the rest of the world). This was achieved through years of drinking sugared soft drinks/sodas/sody-pops/cool drinks and sitting in front of a computer for 15 hours a day. I did bike places, and in California and New Mexico I would do some hiking, but not much and not intensive. And in both those companies we had access to free candy, pop-tarts, and whatnot.

Among other things, I saw a picture of myself and decided that it was too much. One of the reasons I quite working for companies and started consulting was that I could work less. Yes, I'm one of the few people who works less as an independent than when employed. I started dancing, and going hiking more often, and to the gym. I managed to get down to about 193 (87 kg). For reasons I won't get into here, I stopped doing some of that for nearly a year and got up to around 200 (91 kg).

I've stayed around that for a few years. Before leaving Santa Fe I found a gym I really liked, Carl and Sandra's gym in the DeVargas mall. It was much better than Santa Fe Spa, which seemed mostly full of anonymous people on their bikes and treadmills. C&S stressed weight training, and I found that my body reacts amazingly well to that. A few months before is when I started really being a dancer, meaning that I was going to clubs and lessons for about 22 hours a week. I wanted to learn to do dips and other tricks and figured that the strength would be helpful for that.

In reality it isn't as important as I thought. The dips and such I do are dependent on the woman keeping her own weight. But many women don't know how to do it, so as a consequence they feel very secure with me. And then there's the waitress at Buena Vista Social Cafe in Cape Town who loves being dipped so much she throws herself backwards and expects you to catch her.

With all my travels I stopped going to the gym, and I've not been dancing as much. Only about 11 hours a week, and more of it is tango. I have a very intense, energetic tango style, but it's not salsa. I've been walking more, but burgers and fries, and yummy chocolate bars, and kebabs all are so delicious.

In the back of my mind I wanted to get back to the gym, and lose more weight. Now that I have an income, and am sure I'll be here for a while more, and because of this wonderful spring feeling, and for other reasons in my life, I felt like it was time to do that.

I started about 6 weeks ago, again with an emphasis in weight training. I like Markus' phrase "explosive power." The gym also does group classes, and I've enjoyed a few of those. One is "funk," which is more choreographed, and uses a lot of moves and feelings that I don't have from my other dances. It's an hour every Monday evening. Another is "core", which stresses the core muscles. There's still a ways to go before I'll be able to do that 30 minutes without having to take a breather part-way through. Following that is African dance, which is mostly fun. Again, new moves, but that one's not so hard, although I don't have the feeling down.

Not quite two weeks ago there was actually another guy in the funk class. I'm otherwise the lone male representation, and I put in a good showing. He was lost in the moves, and in the locker room afterwards asked me how long I had been dancing. Sometimes I forget that I really am a dancer.

I also tried out a new dance style, contact improvisation. Åsa (one of the several tango dancers I know named Åsa) suggested it to me last year. I have a very engaged style in my dance. Women like to dance with me because they feel safe even when I ask them to do new, steps they didn't know they could do. If it doesn't work out, I recover nicely too, because I pay close attention to my partner.

Contact improv stresses that connection. Not all dancers have it. Kartar, back in Santa Fe years ago, was a great help in my early years of social dance, and she's just a nice person too. She among other things helped me get over my initial worries about dancing close to a woman - the tango term is on-body - when we danced merengue. She also taught me a technique of dancing salsa with only a forehead-to-forehead connection. I practiced it and got decent at it, but don't use it much. The last time it worked out well was a couple months ago when I visited Santa Fe again and danced with Corinna. That went amazingly well. I tried it again here Wednesday last week with a woman who is a great salsa dancer, but she couldn't keep the connection going.

By now you're probably curious on what this dance looks like. There are various movies on YouTube, like this one. But it doesn't do justice. It really is the contact between the people that's key, and unless you've had a lot of practice in dance you follow it in the video. It just looks like some sort of weird post-modern art form. Which, umm, it is. You're also probably thinking it's not something you could do, because it intrudes into your personal space, or you don't know how to move like that, or it just plain looks weird. I agree. It's not something I could have done, say, 5 years ago, and for those reasons. I am a dancer now, and I know how to move a lot better than I did then, and how to be close to people, and how to keep personal space even when close. Sara says I'm always the gentleman when I'm dancing. Apparently there are some pretty nefarious people on the floor. I wonder how the contact improve people handle those cases.

Anyway, today news was that I weight myself and I'm 190 lbs (86.2 kilos). It's the first time I've been this light since the early 1990s. The next threshold will be 180 (81.5kg), which is what I was about the time I started college. I figure for now my target is 175 (79kg). There's still a ways to go for that. I've been looking at weight charts to see what a good goal is for my height but most of the ones have warnings that they are not for athletes. When do I count as an athlete? Which is another weird way for me to think of myself, just like saying "I am a dancer" once was.

Next, I need to get a bike. I had a one year pass for the tram which expired last weekend. There's great mass transit here, but to get to where I do most of my dancing requires two or sometimes three connections, and a bike would make things so much more convenient.

Swedish spring

I moved to Sweden a bit over a year ago, on the evening of April 30th. That means I came here at after the start of the Swedish spring. In my many visits here I've sampled the different seasons, but never lived through the transitions. Now I can say that I have. The only time I haven't been here is for Easter, when the witches are in their way to Blåkulla.

There's an expression that Swedes survive winter because they know that summer is coming. I now completely understand that. It's been amazing the last few weeks watching life explode. I joked that the flowers were stampeding. The changes were visible almost hourly! People have been sitting outside, and enjoying the sun, and friends are getting more and more freckled every day. I'm sitting on the small balcony enjoying the late evening sun (it's 8:30pm) set over the buildings that I almost can no longer see through the trees that so recently were bare.

It's been close, but I haven't quite dared to go out without at least an overshirt. (Geoff's old one, for those in the know.) but I've seen others stretched out on the lush grass in shorts, enjoying the day. Mmmm...

Monday, April 21, 2008

I can vote!

I went back to my old home town of Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the OpenEye conference. Afterwards I stayed for a while to dance, visit friends, eat green chile, enjoy seeing mountains, and things like that. Got a bit of a sun tan too, that a lot of people remarked about when I got back to Sweden.

One of my errands was to get registered as an overseas voter. All I can vote for are federal elections, but I do so based on my last residency, so I'll be able to vote for representative and senator this year. (Domenici is quitting - yeah! - and my rep, Tom Udall, is going for the seat.) Oh yes, and president.

From what I can tell, the City of Santa Fe (full name in its lovely glory is: La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís) is well run. The few times I've dealt with them has been enjoyable. Once was when I went to the neighborhood association meeting, and people from the city came by in their off-hours to tell us about the long term plans for the area and hear grievances. One of the neighborhood people had sent a multiple page listing of all the problems he had spotted, like problems with drains and walkways and things like that. To me I thought he was a bit petty, but the city guy said he had gotten it, checked it out, about half were real problems, and they would schedule them to be fixed.

Another time was when I wandered about City Hall wondering if I could get a map of the neighborhood. I met the GIS guy and he was very helpful and friendly.

This time I again wandered about, asked a woman at a desk that looked like it was a "ask me questions" sort of place. She said to go to another building, and with a bit of clarification I knew which one that was. Went there, walked in the door, first left and I was in the correct office. There was a bit of confusion as I explained myself, but a phone call cleared up what they needed from me. I filled out a form, made a mistake, got another form, and get it to the helpful guy behind the desk.

Just made me feel all happy about my government.

I haven't missed a federal election since I gained suffrage.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

phone go bye-bye

There I was in Chicago walking around downtown with Evelyn and someone else from the conference. We had visited the Mac Mothership store where I bought a new iPod, and a replacement power cord for the one I left in Sweden. Well, it was frayed and I had meant to buy a new one anyway. We were crossing the State Street bridge (just next to Marina City - the twin corncobs) going south.

One of my irrationalities is a fear of heights. I have made it to the top of the Washington Monument and looked out through the windows, but I was bodily leaning inwards the whole time, just to make sure the offset weight didn't topple the structure. Yes, I know it's irrational. So crossing a drawbridge isn't as bad, but I'm thinking "okay, I'm just walking, nothing dangerous here, don't look down, don't think about it."

While distracted that way I didn't think of the fact that I was, indeed, walking across a bridge. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to see what time it was. I dropped it. It clattered on the sidewalk and over directly into the gap in the middle. I'm thinking that perhaps it was stuck some place where I could reach it ... moved over to look down through the gap ... which framed the splash very nicely. I wonder if the phone-using fishes know enough Swedish to figure it out.

Looks like I've ruined another phone. My first two went bye-bye in the wash. Not the same wash. I didn't learn the first time. I had a rest-of-the-world phone, a Nokia 1100 which was a great little phone. It's designed for developing countries, and also for people who don't use the phone much. But it was stolen from my house in Santa Fe. Good luck thieves - it don't work in the US. I got rid of my old Motorola when I left the US. And now this one. So a MTBF of about 2 years per phone. Not so good.

Better than my record with PDAs.

The phone I dropped in the Chicago river was a cheapish one, and one I didn't like. It has a color screen that's almost impossible to read in daylight - luckily not a big problem in Sweden - and no flashlight. I miss that Nokia flashlight. I also got a pay-as-you-go SIM card that I never registered, so I've also lost my phone number, the saved numbers of my friends, and the $40 or so of time on the account. I think I'll get a real account when I return to Sweden.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

more Swedish in my dreams

Just before waking up this morning I had more dreams with Swedish in them. Strange dreams too. It started in the switching yard of some railroad, and I forgot the details of that. I remember waking up in my dream to talk about a book I had which had 4 sections. One section was a translation of Latin terms as used in English, into Swedish. I think that came from a dinner we had last week after tango, where one of they guys, who is a professor, said something like "blah blah blah, ergo, blah blah blah." I was quite taken by the "ergo", since it's part of the cultural heritage of Rome, 2,000 years old, shining through both our languages.

After a while in the dream I was a soldier, walking away from the switching yard around a bend in the tracks carrying a big square box. The box looked like something from Zelda64. Obviously computer graphics, low resolution cube about 1m on a side, light blue. The box had a name, "plikt", which is Swedish for "duty" or "obligation."

I went over to Gudrun's for brunch and she enjoyed trying to interpret some deeper meaning. There was a small party here in January when Zoi came back from visiting her beau in Iceland. Gudrun was there as well and learned that I have a bottle of real maple syrup in the fridge, so she had a shot of syrup. It seems she really likes it.

So for brunch I made American-style pancakes (quite thick compared to Swedish ones, and I pour out a large pancake instead of small "silver dollar" sized ones; interesting how old coinage stays tied to a food), with syrup. I also bought a pineapple so it would be a real brunch. Yeah, it's weird what I think needs to be part of brunch vs. breakfast.

We chatted for a while. My Swedish is indeed getting better. I really ought to read and talk more in Swedish. I've been saying that for a while now. :)

New company!

I totally forgot to mention this here. I started my Swedish company two weeks ago. It's "Dalke Scientific, AB". The "AB" is Swedish for "Inc." It means "aktiebolag", which is a company with shares. My company in the US is "Dalke Scientific Software, LLC". Through experience I found that I rarely used the "Software" part of the name, and my domain name is "".

I'd been putting off starting the company for a while now. I first looked into it last summer. I wanted to get new clients before I started one up, since I figured that would be essential to being allowed to renew my temporary residency permit. I did some work for Caran early this year, and a couple days of work for OpenEye, going up to Stockholm for that one. In a week or so I'll start doing some work for AstraZeneca. I haven't done anything for them since September. I'm scheduled for about 18 days over the next few months.

In a couple weeks (the 12th of March) I head over to Chicago for PyCon, the Python conference. I'll get there a day early so I can do some shopping in Chicago. It will be nice to have clothing marked in sizes I understand, and I hope to find some new tango shoes. Mmm, and deep dish pizza!

That conference ends midday Sunday. I take the afternoon direct flight to Albuquerque then up to Santa Fe for OpenEye's CUP conference. I used to live in Santa Fe and I plan to stay there for a total of two weeks for the conference and visit with friends. I'm looking forward to some private dance lessons with Luren, one of the tango teachers I had there.

Then back here. I hope to have a kitchen. The one in this new place is being remodeled. The owner had hoped to finish it when I moved in last month, but it's been ... slow. As of last week the water in the sink is working. Perhaps by the time I move out it will be ready? I hope to do that in mid-summer, which would mean having more clients so I can get the income to prove to me and the bank loan that I can afford the loan to buy an apartment.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Drömde på svenska

It finally happened. I dreamed in Swedish. I was back in Santa Fe (no surprises about that topic as I'm making preparations to be back there for two weeks in March) talking to someone I know there. She had a few friends visiting, and one was looking at a plan book or calendar. So I asked whose birthday was coming up - in Swedish. Because of course everyone knows Swedish. And she replied in Swedish, as did someone else there. We had a bit of conversation before I remembered that this was Santa Fe and the odds of meeting that many Swedish speakers was pretty small. So I woke up.

Though maybe I'll stand in the Plaza with a sign asking "pratar du svenska?" and see who responds "jag kan svenska." Anyone who knows me is disqualified. :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Borlänge and Nora

In the days between Christmas and New Year (mellandagarna - "the between days" - in Swedish) I went over to the House of a Thousand Wows to game. One of the game was played was about rail travel in Sweden. It's not the Ticket to Ride / Nordic countries version but an older game based on a hex map. I wanted to play it in part to get a better idea of city names in Sweden.

The northern-most city on the map was Mora. I joked about the "mines of Mo-ra", to some groans. (Geoff, you can groan as well.)

I was talking with Pär. He invited a few people over to his place for fika and tango, since there wasn't much going on over the holidays. I talked with him a bit about my difficulties of finding new clients, and my decision to expand and look for more general purpose programming work, rather than only in chemistry. My goal now is to live in Göteborg, as compared to being a chemistry software developer.

He called me the next day about doing some work for his company. They are a hardware company working on a project with a dozen other companies to get better data on road conditions. One of the things the project has done is instrument a number of cars to record things like speed, location (via GPS), direction, tire slip, hitting the brakes, shocks, etc. as well as set up weather stations next to the roads. This gets SMS'ed to the main computers, which processes the data, runs some weather prediction models, and puts the result on a map for visualization of the road conditions.

The idea is that this can help with "countermeasures" (salt and sand) and route planning. Pretty spiff.

He asked if I could go along to help with evaluating the web-based mapping visualization component, being developed by another group. The short version is he wanted someone with software experience because his company is a hardware company and doesn't know the right questions to ask, or at least the right way to ask the question. I joke that my job title for my Swedish business card will be "nördtolk" - nerd translator.

The meeting was at Vägverket - the Swedish Road Agency - at their main offices in Borlänge. The city wasn't established until the 1940s so I got to joke they they haven't "lived there for a long time". Bor länge means "living long", but the name comes from Borlængio "vägsträcka där man måste bära (båtar och) last" - stretch of road where one must carry (boats and) cargo. That is, portage.

There were no flights that week from Gothenburg to Borlänge so we drove. There were three of us going up and four coming down (the 4th came up a day later by train). It's about 6-7 hours away though coming down was longer because of snow. Swedes have a thing about "godis". Loose/bulk candy for the most part. You can get it in the shops. You can get it in the movie theaters, and more people get that than popcorn. And there's driving godis. Apparently an essential part of any Swedish road trip.

We stayed in Falun and went into Borlänge during the day. Falun has it's own knäckebröd, so of course I had to get some. Apparently it has its own sausages as well. My joke there was talking a walk in town is a Falun gång (gång=walk, and it sounds like Falun Gong).

On the second night we went to ... Nora! Yes, that place I learned about a few weeks ago- I went there. Pär and I went tango dancing there. He had looked them up on the web and made sure there was dancing that night. With the two of us there were 13 people. A couple of them I had even seen at Tangocamp. So, not many people, but it was fun.

These places were in Dalarna. A symbol of the province is the Dala horse. They are very fond of their horse and it shows up in a lot of places. One last word play joke for this blog. The Swedish word for horse is "häst". This rhymes with the word for west, which is "väst". (In American, sounds like "hest" and "vest"). The transit system in Gothenburg is called Västtrafik - "west traffic". Dalarna's is called Daltrafik. But I think it should be called Hästtrafik.

What to see where these places are? Here's the Google map route.

Only after I got back to Gothenburg did I realize that we passed very close to my ancestral home, as it were. My g'g'g'grandparents came from around Örebro, at least according to the research my mother's mother's cousin did some years back. And my niece and my g'g'g'g'g'g'grandmother share the name "Margaret." I may be off in the "g" count there. It was a long time back, going to the late 1700s.


For last year's New Year's Eve party I went to Camilla's. This time she and I went to a friend of hers' to celebrate. As typical it was a knytkalas. I made something simple: a chunk of mozzerella, a leaf of basil, and a chunk of tomato, on a toothpick.

I only knew Camilla's sister, so at the start it was kinda slow. Then a couple other of friends of Camilla's showed up, also foreigners, so we started chatting, and asking questions about what Camilla's been doing in Sri Lanka.

The apartment was on the 5th floor on a slope, which meant it was over the roof line of much of the city. Fireworks are legal here, unlike Florida. And I mean the good kind that shoot upwards 20 stories and make a sparkly boom. A lot of people buy them. A whole lot. It was great.

I'm used to city fireworks, which are an order of magnitude bigger, but only in one spot. Imagine the entire view (even some upwards because people were firing from close by) covered in fireworks for almost half an hour. Tres cool! In reading the paper though it looks like they might be banned in the next few years. The other downside is there's a lot of trash afterwards. It's almost three weeks later and I'm still coming across firework wrappers.


Swedes celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, just like our Cuban neighbors in Miami. I went over to Gudran's for it. Also there were her two daughters, her aunt and uncle, her brother (or was it cousin?) and Kerstin (another tango dancer).

It started at 11am. We met there and took a walk around the Botaniska Trädgården (Botanical Garden). After a while we had fika in the gazebo. At least that's what I would call it. The Swedish name is "lusthus pavilion", which directly translates as "pleasure-house pavilion", which makes me think of Coleridge's Kubla Khan. According to various English dictionaries, gazebos are supposed to be open or perhaps screened in. Doing research now I found only one "unique in being fully double glazed." And it's a Finnish BBQ. I'm going to call it a "gazebo acclimatized to Sweden." A pavilion is any sort of outbuilding so that's probably the correct term.

We headed back to Gudrun's, and after a bit I made a small lunch. My family's tradition for Christmas Eve supper is an Ecuadorian soup called locro. That link talks about Argentinean locro, which is a different type. For pages more about Ecuadorian locro see here and here.

It's always been tricky getting the right cheese for it. In Miami Mom used queso blanco, which was "white cheese" that was cheap and easy to get. It needs to be something that melts nicely when warmed up, and has some taste to complement the potatoes. It's possible to buy queso blanco elsewhere in the US but it's really expensive, so I've been using Christy's suggestion of Monterey Jack. Which I can't get in Europe.

Last year I was in Leipzig at J&J's for Christmas and I made locro for Christmas Eve. South Africans, like most Americans, celebrate on Christmas day so that worked nicely. Johann and I went to a cheese store at the central train station (largest station in Europe). I walked around and picked up cheeses until I found two which looked and felt right. One worked out much better than the other, but I can't remember which is which. I made it again when I visited last November. We went to the same place and again, I can't remember what we got. Perhaps gouda this time? Whatever it was, it worked out.

Some time in early fall I tried to make it here in Sweden, which has its own cheeses. I tried "prästost" but it didn't work out right. It melted too easily. A few days before going over to Gudrun's I tested Herrgårdsost (långlagrad mager, to be specific. According to the Swedish page it's an Emmental cheese.

I tried it. While I was boiling the potatoes I nibbled a bit of the cheese. Mmmm, I could tell the taste was going to be a good fit. It melted nicely. Yes, Herrgårdsost is a winner! So Mom, Christy? Want to try an Emmental next time?

It was a success at Gudrun's as well. Very much enjoyed. I also brought a couple of avocados, which Mom likes with her soup, but they weren't that ripe even after waiting a couple of days and I don't think it added anything. The chives (gräslök - "grass onion") were a good addition.

In case you're wondering about the recipe, it's not really fixed. Chop potatoes into bite sized pieces. Boil. While it's boiling, cut the cheese into small cubes. Once the potatoes are done, drain. Add whole milk until the potatoes are nearly covered. Heat (after all, the milk was cold). Remove from heat. Add cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don't ask me about the proportions, I eyeball it each time. Maybe 2 or 3 times the potatoes by weight to cheese?

For a light lunch for 7 (one was lactose intolerant) I used 12 potatoes, 350g cheese, and 500ml mjölk. Roughly.

Here's the instructions in Swedish, which I wrote up for Gudrun

Skala och skära potatis i bitar. Koka. Medan du väntar, skära osten i bitar. Häll av vattnet. Tillsätta tillräcklig mjölk för att närmast täcka potatis. Värma soppan (eftersom mjölken var i kylen). Ta den av spisen. Tillsätt ostbitar och kyrdda med salt och peppar. Jag tycker bäst om att äta med gräslök. Min mamma föredrar avocado. Majs skulle passa jättebra med. Men se på de där sidorna för andra variationer.

It might be nice next time to try with a bit of corn (like a corn chowder) or some bell peppers.

Friday, January 18, 2008


When last I wrote it was the Nobel prize night. Two days later was a Thursday. After Gerhard Ertl's nobel prize talk at Chalmers, to a pretty full audience. I then started preparing for dinner.

It was the end of the season knytkalas (potluck) at Oceanen and I had gotten it in my head to make a curry. When I was in South Africa, and after going to Ham's parents' place in Durban, I decided I should learn to make Indian food. I found what looked to be a decent cookbook at a bookstore in some mall. Plus it was at the equivalent to a dollar store, so quite cheap. I also picked up a copy of Madam and Eve.

I pulled out the cookbook and started looking for something to make. It was a tossup between a vegetable or a mutton curry, and the deciding factor was getting mutton. I didn't find mutton at the local stores and only latter did I find the lamb sellers at Saluhallen. So veg curry it was.

I working on the dish I found a few interesting things about the book. It was published in England, not South Africa, and by an English author. That's perhaps why the recipe called for a turnip, which doesn't strike me as all that Indian. There's an image of "chilies drying in the sun", which is true. The picture was from New Mexico. It was a ristra hanging on an adobe house. Can you say "file photograph"? I knew you could!

The recipe itself had a problem. It described twice how to chop up the potatoes. First in "rough chunks" and second in "small pieces." I ended up having to improvise by looking at the final picture and thinking of how I wanted it to be. Even better was that I had never cooked with turnips or eggplants before. I found some nice web pages which helpfully explained.

I made 150% proportions and my pot wasn't big enough so I used two pots, but there wasn't enough liquid so the potatoes didn't boil enough. I decided to use a brute force solution, and picked out all the potatoes so I could boil them separately. You get the idea that this is taking a while?

I added the spices as suggested, tasked it, and it was bland. Very bland. In true English style bland. I think I added 4 times the spices until it finally tasted strong enough. I was worried that Swedes don't do so well with hot foods but Gudrun encouraged me to go for it, so I did. I had some South African mixed spices in a bag, with no ingredients list. I used that as well, which means I don't know all that went into it. Oh, and the coconut milk was the key to making the taste right.

Even then it didn't taste quite right, so I made a batch of rice to go along with it. I'm a jasmine fan, while a traditionalist would probably go for basmati. That passed my taste test.

Finally. All done. Took it to Oceanen and put it on the countertop with the other foods. Most brought things like cheese and cookies and bread, which I saw was the case in previous times. That's why I thought to bring something a bit more substantial. It went over quite well. By the end of the night all the curry was gone, and most of the rice. Gudrun said that when she tried it she wondered if I had toned down the spices a bit, but then a few seconds later the heat came.

That's one thing I like about Indian food. I remember ordering a sandwich in Cape Town (at the News Cafe on Main Road near Green Point Stadium, if you want to know) with peri-peri. It was tingly hot, but like a song with one note it didn't have much depth to it.